Advice on buying my first MacBook

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by BlueOcean, Jun 15, 2012.

  1. BlueOcean, Jun 15, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2012

    BlueOcean macrumors member

    Jun 15, 2012
    This is my first post on the forum, although I've lurked for many a year :) Before I go on, apologies for the length to follow and also I understand there are many similar threads, but I wanted some personalised advice.

    I'm going to be starting a postgraduate degree in a couple of months, so I'm looking to buy a MacBook of some sort. At present, I don't need portability so I've been exclusively using a 2008 24" Alu iMac for 4 years, which has 2.8Ghz C2D, upgraded 4GB RAM and now the ATI 2600 256MB graphics card (it had the 8800GS 512MB but that conked out recently due to the well-known failure of those chips I'm guessing). My degree won't really influence my computer choice since I could technically get by with almost anything. If anything, I suspect the only requirement would be to virtualise Windows as there might be some Win-specific statistical software I need to use.

    However, as the iMac is probably going to stay at home, the MacBook would become my primary computer for much of the year. Potentially, I will need the computer for the duration of my research which could be 4 or 5 years. I tend to like to buy big and then not have to worry about it for many years down the line - my iMac is actually still fine for the most part.


    1. Top end MacBook Air with 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD (about £1200)
    2. 13" MBP low end with 3rd party 8GB RAM (about £950), and potential to add 256GB SSD and optibay (£1200 total)
    3. 15" MBP low end with 3rd party 8GB RAM, hi-res antiglare (about £1400), and potential to add 256GB SSD and optibay (£1650 total)
    4. Retina MBP low end with 16GB RAM (about £1670)


    As far as studying is concerned, I'm a pen and paper sort of guy, so I will never use a laptop for that. Hence I'm not sure whether I'd be carrying it every day. But, the lighter it is, the more likely I'll keep it around just in case I need to look something up. I could also read papers and do some internet research. I doubt I'll be needing an optical drive.

    More strain is going to be put on it from personal use than work use I'm guessing. I use my Mac a lot for recreation in terms of internet, music, video etc. But also, I do record music using Logic, edit images with Photoshop, do a bit of light video editing and light gaming.

    I do most gaming on my PS3, and play older stuff and things like Minecraft and Source games on my computer. I know the HD4000 can realistically handle this, but I'm all for allowing myself some extra capacity should I decide to play something like Civ etc.

    The thick MBPs are clearly better value for money, and honestly, I'm a little worried that 256GB is not enough. My current iMac has a 500GB HDD. I'm using about 250GB of that now, which includes a 65GB Win XP partition. I suspect a Win 7 partition on my MacBook would take up more. Most of my videos are on an external anyway, but even if I moved it all off there, I don't think I'd leave myself much breathing room with a 256GB SSD.

    However, as I mentioned before, I don't need the optical drive and would be more inclined to carry something that was lighter. I don't really care much about RAM expandability on the Air/Retina as I'd max them out, but configuring the Air with a 512GB SSD comes to £1500 - only slightly less than putting a 256GB SSD in the 15" Pro AND having the 500GB HDD in there too. Really, I guess I need to figure out whether I can sacrifice the performance and value for extreme portability, so some personal opinions would help there.

    I can't afford to get the high end Retina as the base w/ 16GB is at the very limit for me, and so the SSD would be an issue again. But as for power in a small package, it is very tempting. I have a 24" 1080p TV that I use for my PS3, so the HDMI would be useful (as I understand, the Thunderbolt/Mini Display doesn't do audio and it would obviously mean I cannot connect any TB devices at the same time as outputting to the TV if I needed to). I'm not sure that I would be using the TV all the time as a monitor though (probably just for movies/games) so the MBP 13's low res is a bit of a turn-off.

    Finally, I'm a bit worried about all these teething troubles that the Retina seems to have as it's first rev hardware and so it might be a bit of a gamble if this is going to be my only computer.

    That's about all I can think of right now - sorry for the wordiness, and of course if there's anything I've missed, let me know. Thanks for reading.
  2. miles01110 macrumors Core


    Jul 24, 2006
    The Ivory Tower (I'm not coming down)
    Macbook Airs seem to be designed to lock people in to a 2-3 year upgrade cycle. I wouldn't buy one of those if you want it to last and run well 4-5 years from now.
  3. BlueOcean, Jun 16, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2012

    BlueOcean thread starter macrumors member

    Jun 15, 2012
    Well, I've barely touched my iMac in 4 years (just RAM), so if I configure a MBA beforehand, I may be able to get it to last. However, the ULV processor in the MBA seems like it would be the first to seem obsolete after a few years. So, all in all, you're probably right in that the MBA is not right for me, which I did suspect, but still considered it because of its portability.

    This still leaves options 2,3 and 4 though. :confused:

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